It was common for Hong Kong residents to go to China for kidney transplant operations.
In recent times a family member of a Hong Kong resident went to China for a kidney transplant operation and found that the doctors were reluctant to discuss the process of the kidney transplant details with the patient. During a meeting at the “Kidney Patients Association,” this patient even heard a doctor say that one has to be quick if he wants to go for a kidney transplant, because after July the costs will increase. When our reporter made an inquiry with the departments concerned, she discovered that there were no regulations on Hong Kong people receiving organ transplant operations in China under current legislation.
Ah Li's (pseudo name) family member recently went to China for a kidney transplant. Her kin had contracted kidney disease for several years and her condition was deteriorating. Last year, doctors told them to go to China for a kidney transplant and introduced to them the “Kidney Patients Association.” The association members were patients who had received kidney transplants and their family members.
Agent Doctors Refused to Disclose Details on Kidney Transplant Procedures
Ah Li said when the doctor was questioned about kidney transplants in China, he was reluctant to disclose details about these operation. When questioned, he would ask in reply: “Didn't XXX (someone who has gone through the operation) tell you about it?”
Ah Li's kin only had to wait for two months before a kidney was available and went earlier than expected to the First People's Hospital in Guangzhou to prepare for the transplant. It was said that many patients had gone to this hospital for kidney transplants. Ah Li's Kin spent more than HK$100,000 (approximately US$12,345) for the transplant and they were told that HK$30,000 (approximately US$3,703) was the cost for the purchase of the kidney which had to be paid in cash.
Conducting Surgery for Seven Kidney Patients at the Same Time
Ah Li's kin was originally placed under intensive care but soon after the operation, she was transferred to a regular ward because the next patient was due for a similar operation. At that time there were six to seven patients who had just undergone kidney transplants.
Because patients may suffer a relapse after the operation, the hospital suggested that Ah Li's kin go for follow up treatments at the emergency clinic of a government hospital on her return to Hong Kong. At the waiting area of the emergency clinic, the doctor in charge said loudly, “Why didn't you inform me that you had gone for a kidney transplant in China?” Ah Li said that this doctor knew that her kin had gone for a kidney transplant in China but because he did not want others to know of his involvement, he intentionally acted that way in public.
After July, 2006, Costs of Kidney Transplants Will Increase
Ah Li said during a gathering at the “Kidney Patients Association” last week, a doctor told the audience that one must act quickly because after July the costs will increase. Currently it costs about HK$100,000 yuan but after July, the costs will go up to around HS$450,000 yuan (approximately US$55,555). HK$200,000 yuan and HK$250,000 yuan are for fees incurred in Hong Kong and China respectively.
After Hong Kong people have had their kidney transplant surgery in China, they can go to government hospitals or consult private doctors for post treatment. Currently, there are four government hospitals in Hong Kong equipped with organ transplant care facilities, including Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Queen Mary Hospital, Prince of Wales Hospital and Princess Margaret Hospital. Some private doctors said they could provide “complete service,” from arranging kidney transplant to post medical treatment.
Hong Kong Doctor Says Patients can go to Guangzhou City for Kidney Transplants
Our reporter pretending to be a family member of a kidney patient rang a specialist in Hong Kong. The other party was very cautious and said that because the issue was sensitive, he suggested that she bring the patient down for a personal consultation in order to obtain information on costs and other details. However during the conversation, he admitted that he could recommend patients to Guangdong City for kidney transplants. He claimed that he is not involved directly but is responsible for preparing the patient and transferring information to the other party.
When asked about the source of the organs, this doctor said that recently supplies are quite adequate but he estimates that after July, supplies will become scarce and advised that patients who meet the requirements for a kidney transplant do so now.
He also promised that the replacement kidney will be healthy. When asked if kidneys used in transplant operations come from Falun Gong practitioners, he evaded the question and only said that Chinese officials have admitted that transplant organs come from dead convicts.
When our reporter pointed out that convicts were only executed on certain days, this doctor said he will explain in further detail during the meeting.
According to statistics reported on the Hong Kong Department of Health website, every year there are approximately 1000 patients waiting for a kidney. In the year 2004 and 2005, there were 81 and 49 cases of kidney donors from living family members and dead people respectively.
Doctors say that patients have to wait 20 years for a replacement kidney and priority is given to those aged 50 years and below. As a consequence, many Hong Kong people go to China especially Guangdong province for organ transplants.
Hong Kong's Health department said there is no regulation in Hong Kong for people undergoing kidney transplants in China
Hong Kong's Department of Health Human Organ Transplant Broad Secretary, Mr. Hsia Siu-pun, said that Hong Kong residents going overseas especially to China for organ transplants does not fall within the district's supervisory scope. Furthermore presently there are no statistics on the number of people who actually went had organ transplants in China. In other words, there is no government control on such matters.
As to whether it is illegal for Hong Kong doctors or agencies to recommend patients to buy organ transplants in China, Hsia Siu- pun said that this could only be verified after he has researched into legislation. Yesterday he gave a written reply: “Hong Kong legislation chapter 465 'Human organ transplant ordinance' 4th clause stipulates the prohibition of carrying out commercial transactions on human organs.”
Ms Wong Ka Wai, director of the Human Organ Transplant Coordinating Service at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital told reporter that according to Hong Kong legislation, it is illegal to carry out commercial transactions in human organs. Such financial transactions conducted through advertisements, the Internet, and intermediary doctors' recommendation to China for organ transplants are considered illegal.